Forging Ahead: Japanese Swordsmithing

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The Birth of a Samurai Sword

Of all the images Westerners have of Japan, perhaps one of the strongest is the Samurai Sword. Revered for its beauty as much as for its lethal history, the katana remains as iconic today as ever before. Step into the workshop of one modern sword maker and watch the process firsthand.

Welcome to the workshop of one of fewer than 200 tōshō (swordsmiths) working in Japan today and the only one based in Ishikawa Prefecture. This true artisan grew up in Kanazawa but it wasn’t until after graduating from college that he began searching for something meaningful, combining his love for Japan’s traditional crafts and a desire to produce something both beautiful and useful. In the end, his quest lead him to katana-tsukuri (swordsmithing), and the northwestern prefecture of Yamagata, home to a master tōshō from whom he could learn his craft. He works alone, creating between 10 and 12 hand-crafted swords a year. Although some are destined for private collections, others find their way into exhibitions, garnering numerous awards and commendations. His ability to transform a misshapen lump of steel into glorious objet d’art makes clear that he has not only strength but magic in his hands.

The Art of Travel is excited to introduce visitors to this special artisan in our Japan Custom Journeys. A visit to his workshop allows guests to witness several important steps in the process of making a katana, and the clang of steel and heat from the sparks make for an unforgettable experience.

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ExperiencesMarie Pilaud